Technically, modern warfare is a moveable feast but is certainly no picnic. Rewind a few thousand years and the combat gets slightly more up close and personal. Fans of Feral Interactive’s Rome: Total War on Mac and PC will already know how brutal and relentless these historical battle simulators can get. Rome: Total War – Alexander is the second expansion pack for the series and cranks things up a notch. This one therefore requires the full game but retrains its sights on the conquests of Alexander the Great, throwing you into his most famous dust-ups.
The main campaign mode is timed to Alexander’s life and reign, giving very little choice besides an aggressive front-foot approach. Empire building via political diplomacy isn’t an option, revolving much more around anxiously managing the turn limit to seize the Promised Land and conquer Asia. From a world map you mastermind encroachment and retreat through rival territory, switching into battlefield mode to capture key locations.
Gameplay is largely about moving groups of shield and spear-wielding infantry or ‘phalanx’ into the most effective positions for engaging enemy troops. As a top-down strategic war game, the manoeuvres can become much more nuanced but the basic commands are handled with just a few mouse clicks. Beginners are assisted here with pop-up strategic advice. It also cranks things up enough to confound battle- hardened fans while offering an array of strategies to discover. The game offers variety here with three extra playable factions beyond the main Macedonians, making Persian, Indian and Dahae forces selectable. This makes replayability strong, whether you stick with AI-based battles or challenge friends over LAN.
Whichever way you play it, Alexander is fast in gameplay terms and performance too. The graphics won’t blow you away but remain crisp and well animated even at maximum resolution. Most crucially, the camera behaviour can be tweaked if you find tracking the action slightly dizzying. The audio excels most in the voiceover work, including a typically ebullient Brian Blessed spouting some welcome historical narrative. Alexander succeeds in delivering a balanced challenge, beguiling enough for hardcore or casual players to rally the dwindling troops and charge!